Strategic Communication Master’s program convenes top professionals in Portland

Story, photos and video by Schaeffer Bonner

What happens when you gather the world’s leading strategic communication experts around one table? They talk. And UO students are listening.

Communications professionals from leading organizations across the Pacific Northwest, including Microsoft, Intel, Columbia Sportswear and The Port of Portland, came together on Oct. 14 at the SOJC’s George S. Turnbull Portland Center.

Juan-Carlos Molleda
Edwin L. Artzt Dean Juan-Carlos Molleda greets Scott Trepanier, director of PR and communications for Columbia Sportswear.

Donna Davis, director of the SOJC’s Strategic Communications Master’s program, helped organize the event. “These are 13 professionals from the Pacific Northwest — but, because of the companies they were representing, they are really 13 of the top professionals in the world,” Davis said. “We also had founding members of some of the most successful leading public relations firms on the globe in the room.”

One of those professionals is Louis Capozzi, retired chairman of MSLGROUP, a multinational public relations firm. Capozzi sponsored the meeting and helped organize it because he felt it would benefit industry professionals as well as the SOJC Strategic Communication students.

“These groups generally bring an external perspective to the school to help them understand how to better prepare their students for careers with those types of organizations, but it also helps the professionals understand, from the academic point of view, what is developing with leading thinking in terms of communication theory,” Capozzi said. “The ideal outcome is a two-way street where both groups can benefit.”

During the networking event, professionals met with faculty members to discuss the future of the communications industry and how the SOJC can ensure its Strategic Communication graduates are immediately employable.

The discussion focused on generating answers to a number of key questions, including: How do we design a program that creates the ideal candidate for these organizations?

Communication professionals from around the Pacific Northwest gathered with SOJC faculty and students at the George S. Turnbull Portland Center.
Communication professionals from around the Pacific Northwest gathered with SOJC faculty and students at the George S. Turnbull Portland Center.

During the meeting, Frank Shaw, BS ’84, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of communications, highlighted a few of the dramatic ways the industry has shifted in the past decade. These changes require communicators to have more diverse skill sets.

“We have more ways of getting our message out than ever before,” Shaw said. “Ten years ago we didn’t really worry about video editing as a core skill for communicators. We didn’t think about data science or data visualization as something we needed to focus on. But, in fact, those are exactly the skills that we’re looking for.”

Shaw, who co-chaired the summit, described this meeting as the first step in strengthening the link between the Strategic Communication program and the business community.

This was the first vision summit to support the program, but it won’t be the last. Attendees voted unanimously to form an official leadership advisory network. The group will convene twice a year to give industry feedback to the SOJC, essentially providing the school with its own think-tank.

“Due to the caliber of people who are lending their intellect, we will be able to compete with the best of the best with this group,” Davis said.

Schaeffer Bonner is a graduate student in the SOJC’s Multimedia Journalism Master’s program at the George S. Turnbull Portland Center. He previously worked six years as a photojournalist for ABC affiliate KAKE-10 in Wichita, Kansas. His coverage of breaking news has also been featured on ABC NewsOne and World News Now. Schaeffer is a veteran of the United States Air Force.